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Proposed memorial to honor victims of January storms

On Monday, commissioners saw the plans for a proposed memorial in the Radium Springs Gardens. / Courtesy: Ron Huffman

Nearly a year ago, five people lost their lives when the Jan. 22 storm ripped through Dougherty County.

A few months after that, the county started brainstorming ways to honor them, and on Monday, commissioners saw the plans for a proposed memorial in the Radium Springs Gardens.

“When we go to Radium Springs, the memorial becomes part of the visitor experience, and that’s just more than a date and names. It’s a story," said Ron Huffman, senior principal at AMEC Foster Wheeler.

Huffman worked with a committee to design the proposed memorial, which initially started out as five trees, one to honor each of the victims. The design grew from there.

“They mentioned maybe a marker, and then I said, well, have you thought about sculpture and making it a proper memorial?" Huffman said.

The end result marks a new chapter for Dougherty County.

“To give the community something that is somber, that is beautiful, that is proud, and that also recognizes the loss that occurred with the natural disaster," Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said.

The entire design would stand next to the gazebo in the Radium Springs Gardens. Among its components are the five trees and a single white column wrapped in steel, inscribed with the names of each of the people killed and the date of the storm, Jan. 22.

“The inspiration was, any time you go to a storm-damaged area, you see weird things, whether it’s, sadly, a tree through a house, you see sheet metal thrown up in trees," Huffman said.

Even the column's height has significance.

“The column, due to its height, we can mark the different flood events that happened there," Huffman added.

The design also includes markers on the ground to tell the story of this year's storm and the two floods, along with other natural disasters that proceeded it.

To tell this story in this way will cost about $240,000, but $150,000 of that would go toward renovating and repairing the existing gazebo and gatehouse, which were both damaged by the storm.

“We will communicate this to our state and federal partners so that we can look at potential funding sources," Cohilas said.

But it's a story that, this way or another, will be told.

“The ’94 and the ’98 floods and these tornadoes are things that are going to be a part of our history for a long time," Cohilas said.

Huffman has his own history with the Radium Springs Gardens, as one of the designers of the park about 20 years ago.

As for the memorial, Cohilas said the commission will discuss this plan and make sure they have funding for it before it becomes a reality.

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